Teaching the Wrong Lesson, Again

Someone of you may remember my reaction to Silver Linings Playbook. I remember my reaction better than I remember the movie itself, but what I remember was that the moral of the story is that if you bet on enough longshots, eventually one comes in, and all your problems go away.

I hope I have that at least a little wrong, because that’s a lousy lesson, at least according to the ethos under which I grew up. Gambles are nice when you can afford to lose, but they’re no way to live if you’re playing honest games.

St. Vincent struck me the wrong way. The ten-year-old kid sees a complex saint who looks rough on the outside but has a heart of gold. I see a screw-up who mismanaged his finances and now has no life to speak of. (Please don’t tell me the newborn girl is a life to speak of. Neither he nor the mother are in much of a position to raise another human being.) OK, he took care of his demented wife as best he could. Drug dealers are nice to their mothers, too, but that doesn’t make them saints. He owed his wife’s care facility three months of payments. He owed a loan shark. He was overdrawn on his checking account until the neighbor kid hit a trifecta at the track. He even owed his prostitute girlfriend without apparent shame.

Bill Murray played a role that’s not glamorous. I get it. This was a film most of Hollywood wouldn’t have made. I get it. There’s a reason most of Hollywood wouldn’t have made that movie! Do they get it?

Being the neighborhood Robin Hood doesn’t make you a saint if you hurt as many people as you help. Being a saint is more than just being nicer than people realize.


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